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Chile exporters fret as customs strike stretches on

Author: Reuters | May 27 2015 at 12:07 PM | Category: International Trade  

SANTIAGO - A customs strike in Chile that began last week has started to affect exports and imports, although miners in the top copper producer said this week they have not yet been significantly impacted.

The strike by customs officials, who say they want the government to approximately double their workforce, began on May 20, and the union says it will continue indefinitely until an agreement is reached.

It rejected a government proposal for a smaller increase in the workforce at the weekend.

“We have had dialogue but it has been tense ... what we want is a signal that this will be resolved in the short term but that hasn’t arrived,” Jorge Thibaut, secretary general of the national association of customs workers (ANFACH) said to journalists on Wednesday.

Goods crossing by land to or from Argentina and Peru had been the worse affected by the strike, Thibaut said.

Miners said late on Tuesday that the impact to date had been minimal.

“In the northern zone there have been no great difficulties and in the central zone, the move has led to delays in loading our products, but we have been able to comply with our contracts,” said a spokeswoman for Codelco, the world’s No. 1 copper producer.

Codelco’s main mines in central Chile are El Teniente and Andina.

A spokeswoman for the Collahuasi mine in northern Chile, owned by Anglo American and Glencore, said the impact was limited to some spare parts that had been held up.

However, exporters of perishable goods such as fruit and salmon said they were deeply concerned as items were beginning to pile up near customs posts, with trucks kept waiting for over 30 hours.

Chilean exporters of fruit such as apples and grapes were hit in February by a port strike on the U.S. West Coast.

Small business owners in the South American country also complained that crucial import stocks were being held up.

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